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Chrisitan Iraqi's Stripped of Minority Electoral Rights In Order To Keep Them Oppressed
By Amer Hedow :: Monday, September 29, 2008 :: 100162 Views :: Article Rating :: Law & Order, Government & Society, World News & Odds 'N' Ends

BAGHDAD — After months of negotiation, Iraq's parliament passed a crucial election law Wednesday, but only by setting aside for future debate the most divisive issues and stripping away most all minority rights. Iraqi Christians protested on Thursday against the absence of a clause determining their quota of provincial coucil seats in a new provincial elections law adopted the day before in the Iraqi parliament

The Students Federation of Chaldean Christians in Iraq objected to the secret removal of a clause in the old law that reserved provincial council’s seats for Christians and other religious minorities.  The new law could clear the way for provincial elections to take place in much of Iraq early next year with no voice for the indigenous people of Iraq.  The deletion of the law now leaves Iraqi Christians 'disenfranchised,' the Voices of Iraq (VOI) news agency quoted the group as saying.

Iraqi and U.S. officials moved aggressively to get the law passed.  Both U.S. and the U.N. ignored to challenge why minority clauses were stripped by Iraqi parliament, leaving minorities vulnerable to ongoing oppression.   Secretary of the Chaldean National Council, Daiaa Boutros, said that removing the clause was dangerous in an Iraq that was moving towards democracy, as the country had to preserve the rights of minorities.

Unlike the entire removal of article 50, protective rights of the minority, the question of how to settle a dispute over control of the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk was just postponed.  Before the law is enacted, it still must be approved by the three-member presidential panel.

The struggle over Kirkuk, where Arabs, Kurds, Turkomen, and indigenous Christians have all staked claims, has been among the central obstacles to unifying Iraq. Under the new bill, a committee made up of representatives from the major groups in the Kirkuk dispute would take up the question and present recommendations by March 31. The election in Kirkuk would be postponed and the current provincial council would remain in place until a separate election law for the province can be passed.

The overwhelming opinion by minority leaders is that Iraq's provincial elections law is the newest assault on Christian rights in Iraq. The previous drafts, with parliamentary approval, included Article 50, guaranteeing reserved seats in a quota system for vulnerable minorities, including the indigenous Christians.  The Elections Law has now passed but Article 50 was secretly removed.  The outraged protestors claim this is another reflection of the prejudicial treatment of vulnerable Iraqi minorities.

Come Iraqi leaders who recognized the unfair and unjust removal are hoping the United Nations, which is primarily responsible for supporting and monitoring Iraq's elections process, and the United States Government, will join in the outcry against this removal of minority rights and protections.  The quota system will allow ethnic and religious minorities to vote for their members filling the reserved seats, ensuring a free and representative voice for the people.  Denying the minorities of Iraq to vote for their own representatives is part of a strategic plan by the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to silence the indigenous people of the land. These minorities are the building block of any new Iraq and with out them there will be no true democracy in that region say community leaders.

By taking away the previously approved quota system, the Iraqi Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government are adding to the record of prejudicial actions reflecting a deliberate denial of Christian rights.  In 2005 elections fraud took place against minorities without justice.  Development in areas such as the Nineveh Plain has been far below the needs of the people.  The systematic discrimination is denying the chance to develop formal, legitimate local police force.  Instead foreign militias are being exported into delicate areas, such as the Nineveh Plain.

When progress was made and a police force was created earlier this year, they were promptly demoted from local police to property guards, in order to prevent formal policing in the Nineveh Plain.

Minority leaders claim the problems facing ethnic and religious minorities was clear when the Iraqi parliament refused to require minority representation on Iraq’s independent Supreme electoral commission. The frustration expressed by minority leaders in Iraq is that in a free and democratic Iraq, Christians cannot vote for their own representatives.  Even worse, they continue, is being forced to vote for people that have oppressed the minorities, seized their lands, and demolished their existence annihilating any future for minorities in Iraq.

Many are calling the make-shift democracy a farce and the exclusion of minority rights proves such.  Rumors are circulating in Iraq that efforts to get United States out of Iraq so feuding parties can begin a civil war and determine by violence who will govern the oil rich country.  The exclusion of article 50 ensures that no one party can win a majority by lobbying for minority votes.   

Article 50 specifically granted defined ethnic and religious minorities (that are named in the Constitution) seats in specified provincial councils as follows:  Baghdad (3) seats. Kirkuk (2) seats. Duhok (2) seats. Erbil (2) seats. Basra (1) seat. Nineveh (3) seats and (1) seat for Shabaks (1) seat for Yazidies.

Chaldeans in Europe and U.S. are being asked to call on their political representatives to pressure the U.N. and the U.S. to address the injustice and investigate the conspiracy to remove minority rights.  

St. Thomas, MI USA

St. Thomas Chaldean Catholic Church
6900 Maple Rd.
West Bloomfield, MI 48322
Tel: (248) 788-2460
Fax: (248) 788-2153

Founding Pastor:
Rev. Hanna Cheikho

Current Pastor:
Rev. Frank Kalabat

Parochial Vicar:
Rev. Jirjis Abrahim

Rev. Emmanuel Rayes, Retired  

Rev. Frank Kalabat

Rev. Frank Kalabat was born in 1970 in San Diego, California and entered St. Francis Seminary of San Diego, California.  The admission to the Catholic seminary made him the first born U.S. Chaldean to enter an American seminary.  In 1992, Fr. Kalabat continued his studies at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan.  In July 1995, shortly after graduation he was ordained as priest by His Excellency Bishop Ibrahim N. Ibrahim.  

Fr. Frank chose Mother of God Parish in Southfield, MI. as his first assignment serving the Chaldean community as an associate pastor for half a decade.  In 2001, Fr. Kalabat was elected to serve as Pastor of St. Tomas Parish in West Bloomfield, Michigan where he remains today.   

Rev. Jirjis Abrahim

Rev. Jirjis Abrahim was born in Telkaif, Iraq in 1942. Upon graduation Fr. Abrahim was admitted to St. Peter Chaldean Seminary in Baghdad, Iraq.  After a decade of studies and numerous degrees, Fr. Abrhim was ordained a priest in 1967.  He chose to continue ministering in Baghdad, Iraq.  There he was appointed the headmaster of the catechism at Mother of Sorrows Cathedral.  Fr. Abrahim also assisted St. Therese Church in Baghdad until 1978.  Afterward he was asked to assist St. Joseph Church in Baghdad and was appointed Parochial Vicar from 1978-1992. 

In 1992, Fr. Abrahim was called upon to assist the growing Chaldean population in Michigan.  Upon his arrival he was assigned to St. Joseph Church in Tory, Michigan.  Two years later Fr. Abrahim was asked to become the pastor of a Parish community in Windsor, Canada  where he remained the parish pastor until 2001.

Continuing demographic changes in Michigan required Fr. Abrahim to return to St. Joseph Parish in Tory as a Parochial Vicar, where he remained until 2006.  In 2006 he was elected to St. Thomas Parish as Parochial Vicar in West Bloomfield, MI. where he currently serves the Chaldean community.


Rev. Emmanuel Rayes

Rev. Emmanuel Rays was born in Araden, Iraq in 1930.  He studied at St. John Dominican Seminary and was ordained to the priesthood in 1954.  The Chaldean catholic ambassador ministered in northern Iraq from 1954-1963, in Syria and Lebanon from 1963-1980, and in the United Stated from 1980 to the present day.
Form 1980-1983, he was appointed associate pastor at Mother of God Parish in Southfield, Michigan.  From 1983-1989 he served as pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Detroit, Michigan.  During the early 1990’s he ministered to the Chaldean community in Farmington Hills and was at St. Joseph Parish in Tory where he was Parochial Vicar until 2000.

Although Fr. Rayes retired in 2001, he remains active in serving the community.  He is the author of many articles in Arabic and is the editor-in-chief of the Al Mishal and Al-Tariq magazine.  He has translated and continues to translate many books from French and English into Arabic.